Why Does Nutsedge Occur?

Why Nutsedge Occurs

Identifying Nutsedge in Your Lawn

Nutsedge is a fast-spreading perennial weed that thrives in a wet and warm environment. It first appears in mid-spring and continues throughout the summer season, sticking around until the first frost later in the year.

This weed is known for having bright green stalks that are triangular in shape, along with a cluster of seeded spikes at the top.

This cluster will typically be either yellow or purple, which are the two most common varieties of nutsedge weeds, and grows about five times faster than the rest of your lawn.

When nutsedge begins to grow, it is easily mistaken as grass, but upon closer investigation one can see the triangular stems that have three rows of leaves.

Reasons Nutsedge Occurs

So, why exactly does nutsedge occur? The main reason it occurs is that the soil is staying too wet, encouraging nutsedge to grow as this weed thrives in wet conditions. (Interestingly: once established, nutsedge can grow even in dry areas of your lawn or amidst a drought).

There could be a wide range of reasons why your soil is staying too wet. You may live in a state that has been experiencing a lot of heavy rain recently.

For our local customers in Dallas, Texas, where rain may not be as prevalent, other causes can be: poor yard drainage, overwatering your lawn, a leaky sprinkler or faucet, or downspout runoff.

Once nutsedge begins growing, if it’s allowed to grow too tall, the seeds at the top can fall, spread, and germinate. This will cause more of the pesky weeds opportunity to infiltrate your lawn. 

If you’re not having issues with wet soil or allowing the existing nutsedge to grow too tall, the last cause could be if you have recently used bulk soil or plants from a nursery.

Sometimes bulk soil and the soil from a nursery plant or stalk can contain the tubers of nutsedge, which matched with the right conditions (warmth and water) will take root and begin appearing in your once manicured lawn.

How to Control Nutsedge

Your first thought on how to control nutsedge may be with chemical control.

Make sure you research which post-emergent herbicides will properly target nutsedge, as it will be different than the common lawn “weed killer.” Post-emergent herbicides are very important when trying to control weeds on your lawn.

Be sure to not mow your lawn before applying a post-emergent herbicide, while also avoiding mowing for a couple of days after (which will allow the weed to absorb this treatment.)

Keep in mind, that this will be an ongoing method that will need to be repeated annually (and possibly a few times throughout the summer season).

You can also perform one or multiple landscape controls to stop or slow down the spread of nutsedge. Start by checking any sprinklers (and irrigation systems), faucets, or hose connections for a leak, and if one is found then work towards fixing it.

Next look for any standing water or puddles throughout your lawn. This may require some additional drainage to be installed, or for a downspout to be unclogged.

A third option is to keep your grass and lawn thick, by reseeding and feeding it. This will help your grass to become healthy and you can then cut your grass on one of your mower’s higher settings (nutsedge is encouraged to grow in shorter grass).

The last landscape control option you can try is by providing shade to the areas you are dealing with nutsedge outbreaks (as this weed thrives in a warmer, sunny climate).

This may not be completely feasible with some lawns (or even garden beds), but you can try planting a thick shrub or two (remembering to check that the soil doesn’t have tubers within it) to help block out any light to that patch of weeds.

Alternate Options for Controling Nutsedge

However, since this weed starts at the root level, the only true way to get rid of it is through mechanical control. It is possible to pull nutsedge out by hand while it is a very young plant (while they have three or four leaves).

Pulling by hand will not be a “one and done” occurrence, and will require pulling every two or three weeks during the summer. While it is young, this can cause the energy reserves to deplete, causing it to no longer re-sprout.

However, if nutsedge develops five or six leaves it is then classified as “mature” and will then form tubers.

Pulling mature nutsedge can enable the tubers to break off and move around in the soil, causing more plants to form. Therefore, it’s best to dig up the mature plants.

Be sure to dig them up in early spring so that more tubers aren’t formed. The best way to dig them up is to dig at least ten inches deep and then ten to twelve inches in diameter (from the leaves, not the stalk).

By digging this deep and wide it should remove the tubers and prevent further spreading.

Make sure to disinfect any tools used during the digging process, before using them for other landscaping projects, to ensure tubers aren’t relocated to other areas of your lawn.

The last mechanical control option would be to potentially resod your lawn if it becomes too overrun with nutsedge.

Reminders with Nutsedge

Still Need More Help?

If you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that nutsedge is a pesky weed that is hard to control, and harder to eliminate. If you’re finding yourself still battling this weed and are at your wit’s ends, give us a call.

Our team of expert lawn technicians know all about nutsedge and are ready to help you tackle this weed so that you can enjoy your lawn again.

Request a free lawn care quote today!